Vocalist Yma Sumac was born circa September 13, 1922, in Cajamarca, Peru. After arriving in America in 1946, she found success as a vocalist, and was famous for having a voice that spanned more than four octaves. Her popularity disappeared in the 1960s, though she gave occasional concerts and kept a cult following. Sumac was 86 when she died in La, California, on November 1, 2008. Sumac additionally performed to the “Borscht Belt” circuit. Subsequently the release of her popular first record, Voice of the Xtabay (1950), in addition to her 1951 appearance in the Broadway musical Flahooley, turned her into a star.
Promotional contents emphasized Sumac’s Incan tradition, and she generally kept an exotic look by donning heavy jewelry and flamboyant clothing. The focus on her background could have prompted a backlash, as an unsubstantiated rumor that Sumac was really the Brooklynite Amy Camus (Yma Sumac spelled backwards) started to propagate. But, the gossip failed to keep individuals from attempting to hear her sing. She put out lots of hit records, including Mambo! (1954) and Fuego del Ande (1959). She also appeared in the movies Secret of the Incas (1954), which featured Charlton Heston, and Omar Khayyam (1957).
In 1942, Sumac wed composer Moises Vivanco, who’d worked with her in Peru at the start of her career. Vivanco followed Sumac to America, as well as performed with her in the Inca Taqui Trio before she became a successful solo musician. In the 1950s, the two divorced, as Vivanco had had twins with a different girl. They remarried, however a second divorce followed in 1965. Sumac and Vivanco had one son, Charles.
As the 1960s advanced, Sumac’s popularity diminished. Though she occasionally gave concerts in the next decades and released an unsuccessful rock record, Miracles, in 1972, she largely pulled away from performing. The documentary Yma Sumac: Hollywood’s Inca Princess (1992) also started additional interest in her career. In acknowledgement of her achievements, the authorities of Peru honored Sumac using its Orden del Sol (Order of the Sun) in 2006. In February 2008, Sumac was identified as having colon cancer. She died in La, California, on November 1, 2008, in the likely age of 86.